Apex proved worthy of its top seeding in the N.C. High School Athletic Association boys soccer playoffs in a number of ways Friday.
The Cougars did something no other team could say this year – beat Middle Creek three times. No. 1 Apex knocked out the No. 16 Mustangs from the second round of the 4A playoffs, 3-0.
And they did so short-handed. The Cougars’ last two goals came while playing a man down. Apex did not concede many opportunities against the high-powered Middle Creek attack, instead relishing the chance to overcome adversity.
“This is one of those moments where they’re going to remember how they responded and the result,” Apex coach Kevin Todd said. “It was one of those opportunities where a lot of personal growth can take place and a lot of team growth can take place.”
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Apex got its first goal on a breakaway from Will Tomlinson. But a red card in the 33rd minute put the Cougars down to 10 men.
Holding on to a 1-0 lead coming out of halftime, Apex’s Josh Foss scored twice in the same fashion by being in the same place at the same time. In the 44th, he hammered in a ball that Middle Creek failed to clear away. In the 71st, he tapped in a rebound.
“In the pregame, Josh Foss was spot-on,” Todd said. “He’s a senior, and there’s something about being a senior in a state playoff game.”
Middle Creek had two players pick up their second yellow cards of the night in the last five minutes, so the match ended 10-on-9.
Middle Creek ended the year 18-6, with half of those losses against Apex (21-1-1), which will host Wilmington’s Laney High on Wednesday.
“They beat us with 10 players, so what else can I say?” Mustangs coach Guy Coleman said. “I think they’re going to win the state championship if they keep playing the way they’re playing. Nobody can stop them. I wish we played them later in the playoffs but that’s out of my control.”
Laney 1, Green Hope 0: The Falcons ended their season 16-5-3 after coming up short in Wilmington at 8-seed Laney.